CES 54: Bantamweight Champion Tony Gravely Ready to Defend Title

CES MMA Tony Gravely UFC prospect
Tony Gravely Credit: Will Paul/CES MMA

CES 54 goes down on Saturday, and in the co-main event, bantamweight champion Tony Gravely will be defending his title. Cageside Press spoke to the champ prior to his title defense.

Tony Gravely entered CES as a title challenger for the vacant bantamweight belt. Originally set to face Dinis Paiva, a longtime fan favorite, complications caused the opponent to change with less than 24 hours’ notice. Gravely ended up with a KO of the Year nominee against Kody Nordby, who had just returned from active duty. It doesn’t seem to matter who he fights or when it takes place, Tony Gravely will be there and ready to defend what he has worked for his whole life.

Gravely told Cageside Press that he is feeling at peak form for his fight on January 19 at CES 54. “I’m big on training the same whether I have a fight or not, you never know when an opportunity will present itself. The hardest part for me is waiting, training everyday, getting your body ready for a battle. It hypes you, all you want is fight day.”

At CES 53, the title fight Gravely had been dreaming of, the last minute change of opponent did not take a toll on him, even though he had prepared for a much different fight.

“One was a shorter stocky wrestler the other a longer striker, that just shows that you need to train to excel in any area, be ready for it all, the change didn’t bother me because I was prepared for anything.” Gravely believes if you feel solid in all aspects of the sport in training, last minute changes to opponents (which is very much a part of the sport) don’t need to have an effect on the outcome. “End of the day, I didn’t care who stood there, I was winning that title.”

“Before I started fighting, I’d watch CES, told my wife one day that will be me.”

After winning the vacant bantamweight belt that was left behind by current UFC bantamweight Andre Ewell, Gravely was full of emotion. With tears in his eyes, he had fulfilled a life long dream, but that only started the next journey for the Virginia native. “Being from a little town in Virginia, I never thought I’d be able to get where I am.” Gravely added that his journey was harder than many could imagine, and that he has his home behind him every step of the way. The man standing in his way come January 19 is Kris Moutinho.

“It’s a fight, I can’t predict what’ll happen but I’ve faced tougher opponents on paper. I don’t mean to be disrespectful he deserves this shot but I am just extremely confident in my ability.”

Moutinho stands with a record of 7-2, including a dominating performance at CES 53, the same card Gravely was crowned a champion. “I can strike, grapple, or wrestle and still win this fight,” Gravely stated as he credited his confidence to his gym, “We have so much legitimate striking lineage, I have a wrestling background. It is rare to feel you can dominate a fighter with two separate arts.”

Going into CES 53, many MMA reporters believed Tony Gravely would be heading to the UFC with a win, and that is still the belief going into CES 54. “I think I’m close man. I can’t dwell on when it’ll happen, but it’s another added motivation.”

Even though he knows the UFC may be nearing, he doesn’t let it interrupt the present, especially with business to be done. “Even when I make it to the UFC, I won’t be satisfied. I always am looking for that new ‘what if?’ It’s been a long journey that started with, ‘IF I make it to the UFC,’ now it is ‘WHEN I make it to the UFC.”

Gravely stands with a 16-5 record and has fought in many different promotions which he says has made him tougher as a fighter. “I love it here at CES, CES fighters have it made. I’m used to going all over the place, people dropping out two to three times a camp, it makes you more prepared for a fight because you never know who you will actually fight.”

Tony Gravely is currently riding into CES 54 having won eight of nine and four-in-a-row. As we turned to the next question, Gravely stopped me and began laughing, “CES guys have it made man, but I don’t blame them, this is a great promotion, I’d only fight CES too.”

Something that Gravely has most likely not dealt with before is a matinee card. Due to the UFC’s debut, and the new UFC Fight Pass deal signed with CES, the main card will begin at 2 p.m. EST on January 19.

“The time will be weird, it won’t affect too much, just different.” Gravely, who has spent the last couple cards as a headliner fighting at midnight or later may now be stepping in the cage at an odd 4 p.m. “Thinking about it, I’m actually excited, usually you have to be there nice and early, this time I don’t have to wait until midnight to fight. I’m going to go enjoy Providence afterwards.”

Tony Gravely went from tricking his wife into letting him “fight for fun” to knocking on the door of becoming the next top prospect in the UFC. “I told her, I’ll just do one fight for fun thats it, now she knows I had zero intention of stopping.”

Tune in on January 19 on UFC Fight Pass to catch CES 54 and bantamweight champion Tony Gravely look to continue his dominant run as one of the worlds best bantamweight prospects.